Solomon Mikhoels

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Mikhoels, Solomon Mikhailovich

 

(pseudonym of S. M. Vovsi). Born Mar. 4 (16), 1890, in Dvinsk; died Jan. 13, 1948, in Minsk. Soviet Jewish actor. People’s Artist of the USSR (1939).

In 1919, Mikhoels joined the Jewish Theater Studio in Petrograd, which later became the Moscow Jewish Chamber Theater (from 1925, the Moscow State Jewish Theater, or GOSET). Mikhoels was an actor and stage director at the Jewish Theater; in 1929 be became its artistic director. Mikhoels’ depiction of his roles was detailed and masterful and was noted for its philosophical depth and strong civic-mindedness. A master of word and gesture, Mikhoels’ acting was expressive and possessed a sculpture-like harmony of form and movement. Originally performing in comedies and plays of manners, Mikhoels expressed his heroes’ sense of dignity and their desire to rise spiritually over the poverty of the life around them (for example, Benjamin III in Mendele Mocher-Seforim’s Travels of Benjamin III). Mikhoels’ talent as a tragic actor was most fully apparent in his portrayal of the title roles in Shakespeare’s King Lear (1935) and Shalom Aleichem’s Tevya the Dairyman (1938).

Mikhoels’ best work as a stage director was Freilekhs (1945; State Prize of the USSR, 1946), which was based on themes from Jewish folk music. The production was distinguished for its poignant conception and virtuoso improvisation.

In his articles and lectures, Mikhoels promoted a theater of profound philosophic thought and brilliant and daring imagery. He was instructor at the school of the Moscow Jewish Theater, where he became a professor in 1941. Mikhoels was awarded the Order of Lenin.

WORKS

Stat’i. Besedy. Rechi. Vospominaniia o Mikhoelse. 2nd ed. Moscow, 1965.

REFERENCES

Grinval’d, la. B. Mikhoels. Moscow, 1948.
References in periodicals archive ?
Among the appeals, few were more insistent than a letter from Colonel David Dragunskii to Solomon Mikhoels, the chairman of the Jewish Anti-Fascist Committee in Moscow.
Seventy years ago, in January 1948, Solomon Mikhoels was killed in Minsk.
They brutally murdered Mikhoels [the artistic director of the Mos cow State Jewish Theatre].
Symbolic, however, of the renewed faith in the USSR during World War II was the enthusiasm about the 1943 visit, approved by Stalin, of two giants of Yiddish Soviet culture and leaders of the Jewish Anti-Fascist Committee, the poet Itzik Feffer and Shloime Mikhoels, the director of Moscow Yiddish Theater.
That evening, in Moscow, he spoke emotionally of the deep cultural links between American and Russian Jews, saying that through the song, he wished to pay homage to his friends Solomon Mikhoels and Itzik Feffer.
Thank God that at least Tsar Ivan is not played by Mikhoels." This brief scene simultaneously depicts the nascent wartime antisemitism and foreshadows the future tragic events of Soviet Jewish history.
Unfortunately, no one remembered any Yiddish writer or actor, such as Isaac Leib Peretz, Mendele Mocher Sforim, Solomon Mikhoels or Peretz Markish.
The visit of the two famous Soviet Jewish Anti-Fascist Committee leaders, Itzik Fefer and Shloime Mikhoels, to America in 1943 gave them enormous traction, as did the Soviet Union's support for the creation of the State of Israel in 1948.
Many of the professional Jewish actors of the twentieth century, including [the martyred Russian Solomon] Mikhoels, fondly recalled these purimspielers as an early influence." (52) During their performances, which usually included musicians, food was plentiful.
In 1926, major Russian modernist poet Osip Mandelshtam (1891-1938), with whose poetry WA may certainly be familiar, wrote a review of a production of the Moscow Yiddish Theater, commenting on the performance of its legendary actor, Solomon Mikhoels,
On his return to the Soviet Union, Fefer succeeded in luring almost all members of the committee in his anti-Soviet organization, but he failed to recruit Solomon Mikhoels, chairman of the committee, who threatened to denounce Fefer and his fellow spies.
And later Stalin destroyed the entire Soviet Jewish intelligentsia between 1948 and 1953 including Fefer and Mikhoels. Other victims tragically included two former American ICOR activists who had immigrated to the USSR in the early 1930s.